What we don't need right now

Let’s remain focused on the mission at hand and not allow ourselves to get distracted


By Kevin-James Fenech

Kevin is the founder and owner of JOB Search - jobsearch.mt and FENCI Consulting fenci.eu

I am not going to mince my words due to the grave situation we find ourselves in.

What we don’t need right now is a ‘…scientist-led COVID advisory board…’

First, I would like as a citizen to be able to hold accountable our elected politicians especially the ones forming part of government. Therefore, the final decision of anything related to governing this country, should always be that of the government of the day.

Second, what the UK has shown us, since that is the example being quoted by those proposing this ‘scientist-led COVID advisory board’, is that SAGE (the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) actually made many mistakes last year, spewed misleading forecasts and fundamentally flawed modelling, performed embarrassing U-turns and invariably proposed authoritarian restrictions which PM Boris Johnson shot down. This is why the democratically elected leader should have final say and any ‘advisory group’ should only propose advice.

Third, it is a bit late in the day to establish an advisory board and even if it had been formed earlier, it would most certainly need economists, finance and business experts to be equal in number to any scientific or medical experts. Y

ou simply can’t bestow medical or scientific experts power and decision making authority which goes above a democratically elected government. We are not a public health dictatorship and I see no reason why COVID should make us fall out of love with democracy.

I am a management-consultant / business advisor by profession and invariably always tap into my experience in the private sector when writing such opinion pieces. No matter the crisis which a company faces, it is aways the appointed CEO that carries ultimate responsibility for decision making. This is what highly effective decision making organisations do: they empower the leader and hold him/her accountable.

You also don’t delegate the responsibility of big decisions to some ‘advisory board’ even if faced with a national public health emergency and equally important you make sure that any advisory board is populated with experts from different and varying areas of expertise so as to ensure a ‘balanced approach’. Period.

The pandemic doesn’t just bring with it public health impacts but also socio-economic impacts.

Furthermore, the pandemic and the public health restrictions have had a huge psychological impact on children, the elderly, the vulnerable and even the workers who live with the fear of losing their job. We therefore need to balance everyones’ interests in order to have balanced decisions otherwise if you let the scientists or doctors run / control this public health emergency you might end up with zero virus infections but a lot of pain, hardship and economic calamities. This is why a ‘balanced approach’ is the superior approach. We can never let the solution be worse than the problem itself.

Moreover, we are now seeing the light at the end of tunnel (light = vaccine) and have an aggressive vaccination programme in place which will hopefully allow us to return to some kind of normality come May or June.

My point is that the only number that counts right now, is the number of people being inoculated with any of the EMA’s approved vaccines. Even though some EU countries are going out of the EMA’s controlled domain and procuring non-EMA-approved vaccines and this to accelerate the road to herd immunity.

What therefore we should all be focusing on is how/when will the EU secure sufficient quantities of the vaccine and when will the much needed ‘Digital Green Pass’ be launched so that EU citizens claim back their right to freedom of movement. These are the real issues especially for an island such ours which is not physically connected to mainland Europe and heavily dependent on tourism. We should be asking ourselves do we have sufficient quantities of the vaccine(s) with the capacity to inoculate 5,000+ people per day and when do we need to hit herd immunity?

With this in mind I humbly ask all the key stakeholders involved in this matter, to focus on the real and important issues: vaccine supplies, inoculation rates and freedom of movement.

My understanding is that the EU Commission will propose a package of measures on the 25 March to EU leaders bearing in mind that in January the same EU leaders had already agreed on what a vaccine certificate will look like meaning it is now more a question of approving the implementation of the European Green Pass across the Union which will allow Europeans to go on holiday this coming summer.

Malta desperately needs freedom of movement to be restored within the Schengen Area well before summer starts and therefore the EU’s green pass is essential to our economic recovery. In the meantime, we need to continue with the aggressive vaccination roll out so come May/June we are ready to safely welcome tourists.

Let’s remain focused on the mission at hand and not allow ourselves to get distracted.

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